Time is Everything
We live in an era where time is precious; we have schedules, deadlines, projects, meetings. Constant hurry leaves us no time to spend on irrelevant things. To save time, we rely on various privileges of the digital era and use them in every possible situation where our life can be simpler. Well, it was about time that somebody applied this philosophy on one daily appearance – grocery shopping. No matter what, at some point of the day you are forced to grab a meal. So, why not instead of waiting in line to order, the process of ordering, waiting for the chef to cook what you have ordered, paying and taking the cooked meal, you skip all these steps and go straight to the last one? Does it seem impossible that retail trends in physical shopping have gone so far? Or not so impossible?
Is the Future of E-commerce Threatened?
Although today our whole lives are moving into the digital sphere, and the process of purchasing things too, the fact is that physical stores still bring more revenue than online stores. In the USA, online retail makes about $360 billion. But, offline retail reaches to $4 trillion. So, it’s no wonder that Amazon, after a long time of exclusively digital shopping, started working on their first brick and mortar store and moves towards physical shopping. Are they wondering – is the future of e-commerce threatened? Should we wonder?
Setting New Retail Trends
Research in retail trends and customer preferences have shown that the number one reason why people don’t like to shop in physical stores is waiting in line. The second reason is actually going into a store in the first place. Most of the people consider that an unnecessary waste of time.
On the other hand, people still love to see and touch the real products they intend to buy. Also, the relatively high cost of home delivery goes in favour for shopping in person.
Therefore, Amazon combined the best aspect of both forms of shopping and provided people with the best possible solution – picking offline and paying online.
Like Steve Jobs once said, “Start with the customer experience and work backwards from there.” So, Amazon designed and built a real brick and mortar store, but that store is everything except regular.
New Era of Shopping Experience
Amazon started working on the Amazon Go store concept several years ago. They wanted to push the boundaries of retail trends by using cameras, machine learning, sensor fusion and computer vision. They filed a patent application in 2015 and announced a store opening for the public early in 2017. Unfortunately, that has not happened yet. They postponed the store opening. It is still in Beta, and only Amazon employees have access to it.
The store is in Seattle, Washington and it offers beverages and ready meals, that are prepared by cooks in a kitchen that is visible from the street. The plan is to open 2000 similar stores across the USA throughout the coming years.
What is so unique about this store, you wonder? In short, Amazon Go store offers you the possibility of purchasing without bothering with checkouts, lines and paying. Just walk in, take what you want and go out. They call it Just Walk Out experience. Just when you thought that you had experienced everything there is.
Amazon Go App
It is confusing – how is it possible to take things from the store, without paying for them, and simply walking out? It all starts with the Amazon Go smartphone app. First, you need to create an Amazon account and get a smartphone that supports the app. When entering the store, you open your app where the QR code is and hold it against the scanning device. From now on, the app will serve as a virtual shopping cart, and you are free to enter the store and choose whatever you want.
When you pick an item, the cameras in the store will record what is taken, in what quantities, the costs per item and sends that information back to the virtual shopping cart on the phone. The app is also able to determine if you changed your mind and returned an item back to the shelf. Once the shopping is over, you are free to just walk out of the door, after what you will receive an e-mail receipt to confirm the purchase and be charged for everything. After hearing this, you have to wonder, is this the highest point that the retail trends will ever reach?
What About Shoplifters?
Many have already asked whether it is possible to steal in Amazon Go store. Or, can Amazon charge me for something I didn’t take? By using a combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and data pulled from multiple sensors, customers will always be charged only for the stuff they picked up, according to Amazon.
We mentioned that Amazon Go shoppers upon leaving a store, receive a receipt which contains the list of bought items. But, how is Amazon capable of connecting a product with a particular shopper? By using cameras and taking photos. Cameras would take the photos when people enter a store, when they take items from a shelf, and when they leave with items in their hands.
Retail theft is a major concern, even in regular stores with checkout lines and security guards. It is also a concern in this type of stores, too. People are resourceful creatures; it will be interesting to see whether Amazon can successfully prevent thefts and frauds.
Is There a Bad Side to Amazon Go?
Everything new always comes from the humanity’s need to improve our lives. Fire, electricity, cars, GPS. Even ice cream. It’s the same with Amazon Go, where the mission is to save precious time and save people the waiting in long lines every day or fuzzing with self-checkout machines. It is clear that all improvements have their advantages, why else would they be proposed?
But, every coin has two sides. What’s the bad side of Amazon Go? When you think about all the ways Amazon keeps track of you after entering their store, you must ask yourself – with the new retail trends, is the privacy gone with the wind? Or is the privacy dead for some time now? Combining the data of your store purchases, items you may consider buying, but then dropping, browsing their online store, they could spam you by offering their products whenever you are online.
There are a few more things that we might be concerned about, also. What about stolen phones? With the Amazon Go app installed, it can be a much bigger issue than it already is. Also, since the introduction of self-checkout machines, the trend of an excessive human workforce is still on the rise. An Amazon Go store needs maximum ten employees. In the USA, there are 3.4 million people who work as cashiers, and their job is endangered because all the other retailers will inevitably start following Amazon’s trend. Is it possible to stop this trend, or even without Amazon Go, that’s the way in which we are heading?
New things always cause a dose of admiration and a dose of fear at the same time. It is the same with new retail trends that are presenting us the Amazon Go store. There are positive, but also negative opinions. It is something never seen before, but also something expected, considering how fast the technology grows today.
This kind of a store, which is empowered with plenty of data, offers a more personalised understanding of customers. However, it is debatable if our privacy is severely jeopardised.
However, it is an exciting time to be in the field of computer learning. It is interesting to watch how machine learning, sensor fusion and computer vision collaborate and make this kind of a product like smart stores even possible.
Although Amazon Go is still in Beta, it is clear that a new era is coming and that it will entirely change all of the standards we have known about shopping.
What are your opinions about the Amazon Go store? If you could, would you shop there? Feel free to comment below.